Alex Chilton – Electricity by CandelightBar None Records-out now4 / 5 It’s a cold February night in NYC. Across from you is a legendary Memphis musician, reformed drug addict, and born-again folk singer. The lights go out – there is no electricity – and now it’s you and him, back and forth, the both of you trying to discover “that perfect folk song” to round out the night. This is not perfect, this is not mastered beautifully, and it’s not always the easiest to listen to. The audience and various noises overtake Chilton much of the time. What this is is one of those rareRead More →

Patty Griffin – Silver BellA&M Records-out now4 / 5 Our first listen to the much-delayed Silver Bell was one of relative disappointment. Compared to American Kid, the Maine-born folk singer’s latest release seemed less immediate, less pleasurable than the absolutely fantastic Kid. (Which we reviewed here.) Initially, we were thinking there was a reason it took thirteen years to get this album out there (you know, a negative reason), but again, that was our first listen. The reality of it is this: it’s different. Instead of going country on Kid, Griffin splays a laid-back, down-tempo rock groove throughout. And the fact of the matter isRead More →

London Grammar – If You WaitColumbia Records-out now4 / 5 It’s simple, really: just have one gorgeous, haunting voice and support it with piano and light (light!) guitar, drums, and set it to simple but powerful melodies… well, now you’ve got the UK trio known as London Grammar. We’re not usually one to nod along to such straightforward, well, bliss, but lead vocalist Hannah Reid just pulls, pulls us in, all without belting, all within a comfortable range. You can barely hear her stretching, which is all the more remarkable, considering that she makes us, the listeners, stretch. It’s emotive, minimalist, direct and just unmitigatedRead More →

Typhoon – “White Lighter”Roll Call Records-out Aug. 20 5 / 5 This is it; we’re calling it. The eleven-piece from Portland, OR get it right, gets it all right. Typhoon’s debut full-length, White Lighter is nothing less than a epic journey through love and death and everything in between: it is brilliant, truly brilliant, dynamic, engrossing. It is rock tuned to an orchestral feel, with horns, violins, everything they can muster in almost a dozen musicians; it is rock that doesn’t hold back, that goes on a journey with every song; it is rock in its highest form, vast, personal, operatic and yet humble. ItRead More →

Dessa – Parts of SpeechDoomtree Records-out now 4 / 5 We don’t often cover rap, but we’ll make an exception for this intelligent Minnesotan. Citing Greek mythology on her previous release, Castor, The Twin, Dessa makes full use of her Philosophy major in her music, paying special attention to lyricism and individual words. What she has on her third full-length, then, is more than just an intellectual discourse: there are real beats, real songs, and real grooves. Dessa shuns the crass “b**ches and hoes” rap for meaningful stories about ordinary people, if you couldn’t tell by our description, and more power that it works soRead More →

Har Mar Superstar – “Bye Bye 17”Cult Records-out now4 / 5 Don’t be put off by the unappetizing white dude on the cover: Sean Tillman, aka the Superstar, aka guy who looks like he lives in his mother’s basement, has an uncanny sense of retro-funk-soul in his soul. He’d fit somewhere between Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones on the retro-soul label Daptone – due to alphabetical sorting – and would do it with style, playfulness, sheer joy. Bye Bye 17, which clocks in just under 30 minutes, is quick but oh-so-good, is funky, down-to-earth, is indeed a white male Sharon Jones, does indeed channel MotownRead More →

Rhye – “Woman”Universal Republic-out now4 / 5 It takes an international duo – Canadian Mike Milosh and Danish Robin Hannibal – to make a great, understated symphonic pop album. Woman is all of these things and more: svelt, chic, gliding with controlled, velvety falsettos, minimalistic strings and piano. It is a brilliant debut from the now-L.A.’ers, with each song a lament of love, a sexy, adult take on subdued, smoldering passion. It’s Rhye’s understatement that sells these tracks, that makes them mature and relatable, each a masterful understanding of love; as opposed to crooning, over-the-top power-pop junk. These are the kind of songs that areRead More →

Patty Griffin – “American Kid”New West-out today!4 / 5 She has a beautiful voice. But you already knew that. What you may not have known is that, on her seventh studio album, Old Town, Maine native Patty Griffin isn’t slowing down a whit. Her latest collection of mostly new folkies is charming, powerful, and gorgeous, to say the least. Dedicated to her father, these songs come from a drifter’s heart (“Ohio”) or are directly pay homage to parents and their burdens (“Mom and Dad’s Waltz”), and overall you get three things: great songwriting, Patty Griffin’s beautiful vocals, and even Robert Plant (on occasion). There areRead More →

Beware of Darkness – “Orthodox”Bright Antenna-out May 74.5 / 5 The L.A. rock-and-rock-more trio is our first big album of the year. Finally. We were blown away for weeks by Howl off their EP of the same name, and now their debut has come. And it has come rocking. They’ve been compared to Led Zeppelin, and while they have one Zeppelin-esque riff, we think a better way to describe their sound is that it’s depressed by the 90s, like if Nirvana and Pearl Jam weren’t so heavy and distorted all the time, while infused with classic rock hooks and riffs. In fact, classic is keyRead More →

Dawes – “Stories Don’t End”HUB Records-out today4 / 5 It’s great that Dawes’ follow-up to their lukewarm 2011 “Nothing Is Wrong” has such memorable choruses and warm, tingly vocals, because we were getting a little worried for a bit. Stories Don’t End, the latest by the L.A. quartet, is at times rocking, at times retrospective and wistful, always heartfelt. What we didn’t get from him last time, deep, involved vocals, is what sells the act this time around: Taylor Goldsmith gives his performance enough oomph so as to not sink into what tends to be an un-groove for him, given the mid-tempo nature of theseRead More →